Four years later, legend Eliud Kipchoge's sub-two-hour mark continues to inspire

Eliud Kipchoge (second left) during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge attempt. [File]

Four years ago, Eliud Kipchoge stunned the world when he ran sub-two hours in the full marathon during the INEOS 1:59 challenge in Vienna, Austria.

October 12, 2019, remains the historic day that the world’s most decorated marathoner ran 2:59:40.

The immediate former marathon record holder's (if Kelvin Kiptum’s 2:00:35 is ratified) feat remains unmatched.

Apart from the 2019 INEOS 1:59 challenge, the double Olympic champion had taken part in another experimental run over the distance in 2017, timing 2:00:25 in Monza, Italy.

The INEOS 1:59 challenge remains the highest achievement in long-distance racing.

No doubt, the Vienna Challenge became one of the globe’s most followed shows. Kipchoge’s inspirational theme, ‘No Human is Limited’ captured the world’s attention.

He was 34 years old then, and he is now 38, and still yearning for more triumphs. And four years later, the legendary marathoner remains an iconic figure in the sport. Winning 14 marathons out of 17 42km contests tells how Kipchoge’s wall cabinet is loaded with trophies.

According to INEOS statistics, at least 500 million people watched the challenge live on various TV channels while 2.9 billion others read articles about the Vienna race between Kipchoge and the 2-hour mark.

The 1:59:40 time was, however, not recognised by World Athletics because the race was not an official competitive contest.

Days after winning the 2023 Berlin Marathon on September 24, he was awarded the prestigious Golden City Hall Man by the city’s mayor Michael Ludwig.

“It was really good to be back in Vienna for the first time since 2019. I can say that my memories from the INEOS 1:59 Challenge are still fresh in my mind, what happened in 2019 feels like yesterday,” Kipchoge two weeks ago, just 10 days before his 2:01:09 record was broken.

He was returning to Vienna for the first time since 2019. After the sub-two-hour challenge, Kipchoge went ahead to shatter his 2018 World Record (2:01:39) in Berlin in the same course at the German city, last year.

During the 1:59 challenge, Kipchoge ran a consistent pace set by the electric timing car, with the help of pacesetters who raced at 2:50 minutes per kilometer throughout the race with every one km split being between 2:48min/km - 2:52min/km.

At the time, Kipchoge said: “It is a great feeling to make history in the sport after Sir Roger Bannister (set the first sub-four-minute mile) in 1954. I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run in under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited).”

Back home, Kipchoge’s achievement in Vienna brought him fame and with it, several goodies came through.

If there was a prize he won from the INEOS 1:59, the award remained a guarded secret.

Two enormous benefits – the Eliud Kipchoge Library in Kapsisiywa where he was born in Nandi County, and the Eliud Kipchoge Foundation were born out of the Vienna sensation.

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